Telescope to spot aliens

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World’s largest eye on the sky to join quest for signs of ET

The device will be built in the Chilean desert in a dome the size of a stadium

Housed in a dome almost the size of Big Ben and containing a mirror nearly half the length of a football pitch, it wasn’t exactly rocket science for astronomers to find a name for this telescope.
And, sure enough, they came up with the European Extremely Large Telescope – just about the only routine thing about the world’s largest and most powerful ‘eye on the sky’.
Astronomers reckon it may finally shed light on whether there really is life somewhere out there by helping them find Earth-like rocky worlds that are home to other beings.

And British scientists might be among the first to find out – as their work is crucial to the project.
Key instruments for the telescope will be developed thanks to £3.5million funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
The device in the Atacama Desert, Chile, will be built in a dome that covers an area the size of a stadium……
It has a sensitivity to visible and infrared light tens of times greater than any previous telescope, and is designed to help astronomers peer back to the first galaxies 14billion years ago.

This could unlock secrets of dark matter and dark energy – little-understood forces in space – to help explain how the universe evolved, according to the plans.
The British instruments are being developed by the universities of Durham and Oxford, with the UK Astronomy Technology Centre and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
They will include spectrometers to analyse the light received from space, as well as gadgets to help remove blurring distortions caused by the Earth’s atmosphere, a process known as adaptive optics.
This will produce pictures 15 times sharper than those taken by the Hubble space telescope, which has been in orbit since 1990.
Professor Isobel Hook, E-ELT project scientist at the University of Oxford, said: ‘This new financial commitment from the STFC means that UK astronomers will have access to the earliest scientific results from this revolutionary telescope – an exciting prospect.’

The Atacama, pictured, is a favoured location for the project because the dryness and clarity of the air provide exceptional observing conditions

It is believed the telescope will bring hundreds of millions of pounds of benefits to British companies involved in building it.
They include a consortium based at the OpTIC Technium in North Wales, which is developing prototypes for the huge segments needed to make the 43-yard mirror.
Engineers will have to blast the top off Chile’s 9,900ft Cerro Armazones mountain peak to build the telescope if final approval is given by the European Southern Observatory’s 15 international partners in December. It is hoped the observatory will be operating by 2020.
The E-ELT will be the latest tool to join observatories operated in Chile by Europe.
The Atacama is a favoured location because the dryness and clarity of the air provide exceptional observing conditions.
Established telescopes include the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, a set of dishes that forms the highest observatory in the world at 16,000ft.

Established telescopes include the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, pictured, a set of dishes that forms the highest observatory in the world at 16,000ft

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array. When the project is finished it will consist of 66 high precision antennas that will work as a single telescope located at 5000 of altitude in the extremely arid desert

Written by physicsgg

October 3, 2011 at 9:16 am

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